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Extending an opportunity for recovery from the wounds of abortion, a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat is planned Feb. 3-5 in the Trenton Diocese.

Operating with the approval of the Diocese and in collaboration with Project Rachel Ministry, Rachel’s Vineyard retreats comprise a three-day weekend offering access to a licensed counselor, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mass.

“The majority of women and men who make the retreat are looking for healing and forgiveness for the decision they made regarding their abortion,” said Judy Warenkiewicz, Rachel’s Vineyard diocesan leader. “Attending a Rachel’s Vineyard retreat offers them a safe, non-judgmental environment and an opportunity to help them process and release repressed feelings of anger, shame, guilt and grief.”

The Rachel’s Vineyard retreat team is made up of men and women who care deeply about the needs of those attending the weekend, Warenkiewicz explained. “Many of the team members have suffered the same loss.”

History of Support

Rachel’s Vineyard originated as a support group model for counselors published in 1994 by Dr. Theresa Karminski Burke, who had begun one of the first therapeutic support groups for post-aborted women in 1986 after founding The Center for Post Abortion Healing. In 1995, Dr. Burke expanded the curriculum into a weekend retreat format, which eventually spread at the grassroots level to the entire country. Rachel’s Vineyard became a ministry of Priests for Life in 2003, and now offers retreats in more than 375 locations across the United States and Canada, with additional sites around the world. More than 1,000 retreats take place annually.

A non-profit 501 c(3) organization, Rachel’s Vineyard Ministries is funded by private grants, and individual donations. Each Rachel’s Vineyard site is independently operated and it is offered in both Catholic and interdenominational settings.

The name Rachel refers to the Old Testament figure in Jer 31:15: “Thus says the Lord: In Ramah is heard the sound of moaning, of bitter weeping! Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more. Thus says the Lord: Cease your cries of mourning, wipe the tears from your eyes. The sorrow you have shown shall have its reward, says the Lord. There is hope for your future!”

The prophet’s words were fulfilled in Matt 2:18, following the martyrdom of the Holy Innocents by King Herod in an effort to destroy the infant Jesus.

A Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, as described by the ministry’s website, is “an opportunity to examine your abortion experience, identify the ways that the loss has impacted you in the past and present, and helps to acknowledge any unresolved feelings that many individuals struggle with after abortion. Because of the emotional numbness and secrecy that often surrounds an abortion experience, conflicting emotions both during and after the event may remain unresolved. These buried feelings can surface later and may be symptoms of post abortion trauma.”

Part of a Whole

Brenda Rascher, diocesan Project Rachel Ministry director, noted that the retreat is just one part of a set of services that are currently offered or are being developed in the Diocese of Trenton, all of which are being provided in English and Spanish.

“The overall service picture,” Rascher explained, “includes a confidential number to call to just talk or seek specific assistance, which might include connecting to a PRM chaplain (one of our priests) for Reconciliation and spiritual guidance; mental health services through Catholic Charities or Catholic counselors in line with our Parish Counseling Services, including a small financial assistance program, and retreats.”

Former retreatants have shared that they found forgiveness, healing and a lightening of their spiritual burdens.

“Our presence to those making a retreat is one of understanding and love,” Warenkiewicz said, “praying that they experience the mercy and compassion of God.”

Cost to attend the retreat is $130 and includes all meals and accommodations. An additional retreat is planned Nov. 10-12, 2023. Those interested in attending either retreat must reach out to Judy Warenkiewicz at 732-536-6871. All inquiries are strictly confidential.